Air Warfare Director: F-35C On Track for Initial Operational Capability
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
ARLINGTON, Va. — The carrier-based version of the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter is on track for initial operational capability (IOC) later this year, a senior naval aviation official said.
Testifying March 6 before the Senate Armed Services seapower subcommittee, Rear Adm. Scott D. Conn, director, Air Warfare, in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, said that the first operational fleet F-35C squadron, Strike Fighter Squadron 147 (VFA 147), should reach IOC in late 2018.
“For us to declare our initial operational capability, the aircraft has to be configured in Block 3F and has to be going through its IOT&E [initial operational test and evaluation] with the weapons and various sensors that have to perform in a threat-representative environment to the standards identified in the operational requirements document,” Conn said. “When those conditions are met, we will declare IOC, which will be well before the first deployment of VFA-147 in [fiscal] ’21.
“For the IOC declaration, we are event- and capability-based, not calendar -driven,” he said. “We’re holding firm on that. Although IOT&E has slid to the right, we expect that IOT&E to begin in September, and to be complete [in] early ’19. When we get informed that the aircraft has met all the requirements as set forth in the original requirements document … then we will declare IOC, which is plenty of time before the [aircraft’s fiscal] ’21 first deployment.”
The following day, while testifying about the before the House Armed Services Committee, Conn said VFA-147 is beginning its transition from the F/A-18E Super Hornet to the F-35C this month, to be complete by October.
Conn said that 28 F-35Cs have been delivered, 21 to the Navy and seven to the Marine Corps.VFA-147, established during the Vietnam War as Attack Squadron 147, was the first fleet squadron to operate the A-7A Corsair II aircraft.